It is five years now since the Fresh Expressions initaitve brought some good news to those who were involved in or started emerging/fresh expressions of church within the Church of England. Many good things have happened:
1. Church Commissioners found money for start up monies for communities for 3 years distributed to Dioceses.
2. Discernment & training for non-ordained and ordained pioneers.
3. Change in church law to allow for full recognition of new forms of church as ‘Bishop Mission Orders’.
This is all good, but I have a distinct impression that in many Diocese, there is not a commitment to see our Emerging/Fresh Expressions of Church as equal to traditional or inherited forms of church. Regarding financial resources, it seems that most Diocese are prioritising maintaining the traditional with very little commitment to funding new forms. There are exceptions, like the Bishop of Reading, who is seeking to convert 1 in 10 of his stipended posts into an Ordained Pioneer post. This is unfortunately too rare. Instead, I pick up an increasing cynicism about Emerging & Fresh Expressions of Church, which saddens me.
Some of this is partly due to the branding and commodification that some of the Fresh Expressions promotional material has generated, it does feel a little too glossy at times. Such things can feel like a fad. And clearly there is not enough theological writing and engagement with Anglican understandings of Emerging & Fresh Expressions of Church and contextual mission. BUT, there are some very good projects, and it is hard to see projects like my own in Moot, Maybe and hOME facing real financial difficulties in sustaining what we are doing.
I completely understand that all denominations and Dioceses are facing huge difficulties financially, but a church that does not invest in mission and the future rather than maintaining the status quo, faces a real crisis.
I am hoping some how we find a way through this financial difficulty for Emerging & Fresh Expressions of Church that enable us to have sufficient financial resources to make our communities sustainable.